Technology

Twitter responds to charge of bias: India employees not making enforcement decisions

Twitter has put out a detailed blog post where it says that employees in India are not the ones making enforcement decisions with regard to its policies, and refused claims that it was biased against right-wing accounts

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Twitter has put out a detailed blog post where it says that employees in India are not the ones making enforcement decisions with regard to its policies, and refuted claims that it was biased against accounts from a particular political ideology.

Yesterday, it was reported that Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology has summoned Twitter to “examine” the issue of citizens’ rights on “social or online news media platforms” on February 11.

In India, right-wing accounts, including those who are supportive of the BJP, have alleged that the platform has been biased against them, with claims that Twitter leans heavily in favour of left-wing accounts, which are not suspended even for hate-speech or abusive posts.

Colin Crowell‎, who is the head of Global Public Policy and philanthropy at the social network has written the blog post, reiterating that the product or company’s policies have not been “developed nor evolved on the basis of political ideology.”

More importantly it says that Twitter India employees are not making enforcement decisions, and this has been done to ensure fairness, objectivity. Twitter insists that any form of abuse or hateful conduct, no matter the political or ideological spectrum, will face action on the social network.

Crowell admits that at times the social network can make mistakes, but these are “not political statements of intent; they are the basic human error rate of running the fastest, most open conversational tool in history.”

Twitter has also addressed the charge around the issue of trending topics, and said many of the claims have no ‘factual basis.’

One of the arguments made by the right-wing supporters in India is that Twitter shows left-wing leaning trends higher than those from the right side, even if the number of tweets are lower for the former.

The post states that the total number of tweets on a topic is just one factor when determining ranks, trends. An important factor in determining trends is the number of tweets in a given time period (ie velocity), which is not necessarily related to the total number of Tweets (ie volume), according to the blog.

When a topic falls off the trending list, Twitter says, this is because “volume and velocity has dissipated.” Topics are “driven by impartial, purpose-built algorithms,”says the social network.

The company says it only prevent that content from trending which contains profanity or adult/graphic references or incite hate or violate the Twitter Rules. These decisions are made by trained experts and never on the basis of political ideology, insists the company.

Twitter has also denied the use of political ideology to rank content saying users are in control of the content they say.

The blog post says that while the public verification process is currently closed, it is working with Indian political parties to “verify candidates, elected officials, and relevant party officials.” Again these accounts have to chosen by the parties themselves, and Twitter only reviews them to ensure they meet the verification standards.

Twitter has also addressed the issue of lower follower count, which has been reported by some users in India. The company has removing inactive accounts since July 2018, which has resulted in a change of four followers or fewer for most people, according to the post, but some people with larger follower counts experienced more significant drops.

Twitter says this was a global initiative and did not target any particular geography, political ideology or account.

“Our work to proactively identify and challenge problematic accounts globally is ongoing. To that end, follower counts may continue to change regularly however, this is not linked to political partisanship and the process does not target any individual user or geography,” Crowell wrote.

According to Twitter’s recent results, the service has actually seen a decline in monthly user base from 326 million to 321 million globally as part of its efforts to cut down on malicious accounts.

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